Multiple fires burned across the northern tip of Western Australia on October 14, 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over the region on that same day, capturing a striking image of fire and smoke.
Most of the fires burn in the area known as the Kimberly, the northernmost of the nine regions of Western Australia. The Kimberly is rich in dry tropical grassland and renowned as a prime area for cattle pasturage. Each red hotspot marks where the thermal sensors on the MODIS instrument picked up temperatures higher than background. When combined with smoke, these hotspots indicate actively burning fire. Most of the hotspots lie close to the coast, but many fires also burn well inland. Gray smoke rises from the fires, and then coalesces into a heavy veil which obscures both land and sea from view.
According to ABC Kimberly, by October 25 bushfires had been burning for several days on the Dampier Peninsula, to the east in Purnululu National Park, and to the south and east of Broome. In this image, the coastal town of Broome is completely hidden under gray smoke and tufts of white cloud.
Australia has recorded one of the hottest years on record, with little rain. The town of Fitzroy Crossing, located in the east of the Kimberly, recorded the hottest October on record – an average temperature of 42°C (107.9°F). The combination of warm temperatures, dry grassland and strong winds created conditions ripe for destructive fires.
While the fires in Western Australia are impressive, they are not the only notable fires across the country. In the southeast, over 100 wildfires raged in New South Wales alone in September and October, burning over 311,000 acres and threatening the western suburb of the city of Sydney.